A New Day: From the Institution to the Community in Zagreb

Instead of being confined to residential institutions that deprive them of any control over their lives, people with disabilities in Zagreb, Croatia, can now live as independently as possible while receiving individualized support.

In many parts of the world people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities who also have physical disabilities are sent to institutions in huge numbers, leaving them completely socially excluded from their communities. This happens for two main reasons: There is widespread and intense societal prejudice against them because of the way they look, and their physical environments do not accommodate their disabilities. 

But the Open Society Foundations and the Association for Promoting Inclusion, with financing from the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth, have established a community home in Zagreb that is “universally designed,” so that people with a wide range of functional limitations may live as independently as possible while receiving the support they need. Universal design is not just about adapting a space for someone with a physical disability—it’s about making that space accessible to all people, including young children and the elderly, and everyone in between.

It’s worth noting that developing a universally designed home is no more expensive than any other community home. The additional cost is the assistive technology, like decent wheelchairs and lifts. But these are critical investments. And while having a physical space that is adapted is very important, equally vital to success is how support is provided to residents. The staff at the community home demonstrate best practices in providing person-centered, individualized services that  support residents to deal with the challenges of everyday life. The staff have empathy and understanding for their clients—but they never pity anyone. Although they are trained to work with people who have disabilities, they interact with them as they would with anyone else, including maintaining expectations about the residents’ potential to become increasingly independent.

This person-centered, individualized service provision is the way all community-based services should look. There is no “us and them.” People are treated as equals, and recognized as individuals.

This is the model of a new day. This is community for all.

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Inspirational film!
I have worked with people with autism and learning disabilities in Zagreb for 13 years and have constantly promoted person centred planning, individualisation and reintegration into the community. The centre for autism and Slobostina centre for rehabilitation are slowly moving towards a deinstitutionalised approach and this is very encouraging to see. However, although a minority of people with mental health needs are living in the community, their human rights are still not respected and Croatian societal attitudes still stigmatise and discriminate which continues to be a major barrier to successful integration. Education of professionals in the field of mental health and intellectual disabilities needs developing with the principle aim of recognising, advocating and promoting the human rights of all people with disabilities. Only then will society begin to accept everyone as equals.

It is very sad that children with disabilities, very old people (within a few years of their life expiry) often do not get to live with their families. People who "can" should be willing to at least help those who "cannot", treat them as family with respect, love and compassion.


well done,god bless.

This is great news. Winds of change in Zagreb and Croatia that will make everybody better off.

Congratulations to all the advocates of this noble course! This is a great milestone. Keep on fighting for those who cannot it for themselves. Its worthy it and more better things will happen so that they too can live their lives to the full like everybody else!

It seems as if Croatia is becoming slowly progressive in disability rights, thanks I think in large part to professionals like Mr. Broussine. We need to start working on the civil, human, and disability rights of abandoned children and young adults in Bucharest who have none of the governmental help or EU compassion that has led to awareness and action in Croatia.

Sue Booth
Fundatia ARCHWAY, Romania

Having a disability does not mean inability. We are all normal human beings with the same human needs therefore individuals with disabilities should not be treated any different. Also it is important to take note that an individual with a disability is not disabled but just has a disability.

Very interesting topic , appreciate it for posting . The friendship that can cease has never been real. by Saint Jerome. dgbddkcebeaa

Thanks so much for sharing all with the awesome info! I am looking forward to checking out far more posts! gkeggfefdfde

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